The Legislation

On Monday 19 July 2021, Alex Greenwich, the independent Member for Sydney, honoured a commitment he made earlier this year by releasing his draft Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021. This allowed for a period of consultation with his parliamentary colleagues and key stakeholders. On Monday 27th September he released the final draft Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021.

The much-anticipated Bill, aims to give terminally ill people in NSW the ability to avoid the extreme suffering many experience at the end of their lives, despite the best available medical care.

Dying with Dignity NSW welcomed the release of the updated legislation and we are just one of a number of key organisations who have expressed support for the proposed assisted dying laws.

The draft legislation had already received the endorsement of key stakeholders including the Health Services Union (HSU), Council on the Ageing NSW (COTA), Older Women’s Network NSW (OWN), Cancer Voices NSW and the Australian Paramedics Association NSW.

The bill is a conservative model of voluntary assisted dying, limited to people who are terminally ill and whose extreme suffering cannot be alleviated. It contains strong safeguards including:

  • Limiting access to people whose terminal disease will cause death within six months, or 12 months for neurodegenerative conditions and who is experiencing suffering that cannot be tolerably relieved.
  • Multiple assessments for decision-making capacity, and whether the patient is acting voluntarily and without pressure or duress
  • Two doctors with prescribed experience and mandatory training will be required to assess and approve the patient’s request, and where appropriate will be able seek further assessment from a specialist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
  • No health practitioner will be forced to participate and can conscientiously object or not participate for any reason.
  • Before any doctor can participate in the scheme, they must have conducted training approved by the Health Secretary, which will include how to identify signs of coercion.
  • Provisions enshrine the ability for hospitals and residential facilities to have a policy to not provide VAD services.
  • All steps will need to be documented and provided to a statutory oversight body
  • The legislation includes a number of new offences with high penalties, including:
    • Life for unauthorised administration of substance
    • 7 years for inducing someone to apply for VAD
    • 12 months for not returning a substance

As well as releasing the pre-introduction draft VAD Bill Mr Greenwich also provided an updated VAD Flow Chart to illustrate the highly-safeguarded process, a Summary of Substantial Amendments Since Consultation and updated FAQs including QLD comparison and statistics from VIC.

Mr Greenwich has offered all members of parliament the opportunity to co-sponsor the bill and has already welcomed cross-party support from across the parliament, including from Nationals MP the Hon Trevor Khan (who led the push for reform in 2017), Independent Member for Macquarie Greg Piper, Labor MP frontbenchers Jo Haylen and Jodie Harrison as well as Labor MPs Liesl Tesch, Tim Crakanthorp and David Mehan,  Greens MP Cate Faehrmann (who led a push for reform in 2013), the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party’s Helen Dalton and the Animal Justice Party. Labor, the National Party, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, and One Nation have confirmed their members will have a conscience vote, with all Greens supporting it.

“The urgency of this reform to communities across NSW is represented by the growing multi-partisan coalition backing this conservative and compassionate legislation. I look forward to welcoming as many members as possible to co-sponsor the bill”

Mr Greenwich had planned to introduce the legislation in mid August, however the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in Greater Sydney delayed this timeline. The VAD Bill is now due to be introduced on Thursday 14 October 2021.

“COVID has stopped a lot of things, but it hasn’t stopped people being diagnosed with terminal illnesses or experiencing intolerable pain and suffering from that illness; it hasn’t stopped the need for NSW to provide the same compassionate and dignified end of life choices as other states”

“For the terminally ill in NSW who face extreme suffering, this is urgent. They want peace of mind, dignity and as much control as possible over a gentle and compassionate end of life.

“For the NSW citizens who need this bill, every day matters. I am confident that my parliamentary colleagues have heard that message loud and clear. It’s now up to them to carefully review and consider the legislation and then get this done,” Mr Greenwich said.